Happily Singing the Blues in a Red State – Oklahoma Democrats are relevant

OKLAHOMA CITY – Will Rogers, our favorite son, memorably said, “If you don’t like the weather in Oklahoma, wait a minute.” And, “I’m not a member of any organized political party. I’m a Democrat.”
Organized or not, it took several generations for Democrats, once the state’s dominant party – at least in terms of voter registration – to lose their advantage. But in 2016 – sometimes frightful, sometimes inspiring – the party of Jefferson and Kennedy is absolutely relevant in presidential politics.

Saturday (February 27), Bill Clinton made his second Oklahoma visit in less than a week, stopping at the University of Central Oklahoma. After an introduction by state Rep. Emily Virgin, the former president passionately made the case for his wife, the former U.S. Secretary of State, to succeed Barack Obama at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Then he headed to Tulsa, where his introductions came from state Rep. Jeannie McDaniel, state Sen. Kevin Matthews, and Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker.

In his visit last Sunday, Clinton spoke before a rally at Northeast Academy, in the heart of northeast Oklahoma City, traditional home of the African-American community. State Sen. Anastasia Pittman welcomed the former Arkansas governor to the district she represents at the state Capitol. State Sen. Kay Floyd of Oklahoma City and preacher/orator Rep. George Young, also strong Clinton backers, spoke as well.

Clinton thanked everyone present, and gave a shout-out to former Attorney General Mike Turpen, telling the crowd Oklahoma is “my favorite state I never carried.”

Friday, retired Army General Wesley Clark – who narrowly the state Democratic primary in his Quixotic 2004 campaign for the presidency – spoke at the Hillary headquarters in Oklahoma City.

Former Gov. David Walters, whose term in the chief executive’s mansion overlapped with one of Bill’s terms in Arkansas, has been a leading booster for Mrs. Clinton’s 2016 campaign.

Walters was in top form as a guest on MSNBC, which made Oklahoma the first stop in pre-primary drive through southern states with March 1 primaries. He had one of the best quotes of the week: “Democrats are so excited about having a primary that means something, we’ve all come out of the catacombs to celebrate.”

Long ago, in the new state of Oklahoma, the Socialist Party was strong. In the 1914 election, a member of the hard-left party got 20 percent of the vote for governor.

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, America’s best-known socialist, is stronger than expected this year, running a virtual dead heat with Clinton in Iowa before winning in New Hampshire. Sanders will get a hero’s welcome next Tuesday, when he plans to vote in his home state. He got a wild welcome in Tulsa this week after an introduction by former state Sen. Connie Johnson of Oklahoma City. Thousands cheered his anti-capitalist agenda.

Before that speech, he visited the Woody Guthrie museum, clearly linking himself to the Okemah native whose “This Land is Your Land” is an iconic American folk song.

Sanders returns to Oklahoma Sunday for a Cox Convention Center. Among those prominent at his event will be Johnson, the Democratic state vice-chair and a “Super-Delegate.”

Meanwhile, Donald Trump and Marco Rubio were here Friday, and on Sunday Ted Cruz will make what ally Brian Bingman (state Senate President Pro Temp) calls a “Super Cruz-day Eve Eve” stop.

Trump has conservative stalwart Carol Hefner in his corner, rising star David Holt has shepherded strong support among elected Republicans for Rubio, and the mild-natured Bingman allied with true believers for Cruz. And Rubio on Monday is back in Oklahoma City at PC North and then at Jenks High outside Tulsa.

Oklahoma is, for now at least, the authentic home of political diversity.

Will Rogers, the master of topical political commentary, would likely reflect, “If you don’t like the politics in Oklahoma, wait a minute.”